Houston Divorce Attorneys Prepared to Deliver Strategic Results

Houston Divorce Lawyer

The Legal Advocacy You Deserve In & Out of Court

Filing for divorce in Texas is one of the most complicated things you may ever do - legally and emotionally. Finding a divorce lawyer near you that is capable of protecting your rights under divorce laws in Texas and fighting for your best interests in court, all while dealing with your case empathetically, is vital if you want to achieve the best results. At Diggs & Sadler, our Houston divorce lawyers utilize a meticulous, client-focused approach to divorce that helps clients get what they want.

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Texas Divorce Cases We Handle

The agreements reached during your divorce can significantly impact the rest of your life, from your financial security to your ability to spend time with your children. Therefore, without a experienced divorce attorney in Houston on your side, you may not be adequately protecting yourself or your future.

At Diggs & Sadler, we are prepared to assist clients with the following issues in Texas divorce law:

Our Houston divorce attorneys can help you navigate these issues and more. Contact us today at (713) 766-5355 or fill out a contact form for more information!

How to File for Divorce in Texas

1. Meet the Residency Requirements for Divorce in Texas

If you want to file for divorce in Texas, then you must be domiciled in the state of Texas for at least six months and be a resident of Harris County—that is, the county in which you are filing for divorce in Texas—for at least 90 days. If you were absent and away from the state of Texas due to public service such as military obligations, that time you spent away will count as residency.

2. File for Divorce & Serve Your Spouse

In Texas, a divorce is handled as a lawsuit, which means filing a petition or a pleading for divorce with the court to begin the process. Then the Texas divorce papers must be served on the spouse, unless service is formally waived, and then the spouse, or respondent, must file a response sometimes called an answer, on or before 10:00 am on the first Monday following 20 days after service. Those eligible for serving your divorce papers include sheriffs, constables, process servers, or anyone authorized by the court. The two primary methods for delivering this service are either in person or certified mail. If the court allows, you may serve your spouse via email or social media which is called a "substitute service".

3. Go Through the Discovery Process

Both parties must make detailed disclosures describing their finances, income, and assets, and these disclosures include and should be backed up with financial documentation. Our divorce attorneys in Houston can help you gather the appropriate documents and ensure you don't miss anything.

After all documents and financial information are exchanged, and both parties have enough information, the court will encourage or even order the parties to mediation to try to resolve their disputes and make agreements about property and custody.

4. Attend Mediation or Litigation

Mediation is often the best option for both parties to resolve a contested divorce, but if it's impossible to reach a fair compromise, we may advise you to take the case to court. If so, your divorce will proceed to trial, where your divorce attorney will argue and present evidence on your behalf to seek the results you want.

Uncontested Divorce in Houston

Divorcing couples sometimes want to have an uncontested divorce, which is certainly possible if both parties are in agreement about the terms. If so, the procedure is largely the same in Texas, except that cooperation and compromise are likely to be more readily achieved and the parties may be able to even avoid the financial disclosures. Some couples may choose to follow the Texas collaborative divorce procedures, although that step is likely not necessary, and could even be more expensive.

Realize, though, that even if you feel that you should be able to have an uncontested divorce, having a qualified family law lawyer in Houston, TX prepare the papers and shepherd you through the process will protect you from inadvertent and costly mistakes as well as from any possible underhandedness by your spouse. It is far better to handle your divorce and custody issues right the first time, as it is often much more difficult, even heartbreaking, to fight the uphill battle to correct problems later.

Is Texas a Fault-Based Divorce State?

In Texas, divorcing parties have the option to file for a no-fault or fault-based divorce.

  • No-Fault Divorce in Texas – The party filing for divorce states that the marriage is “unsupportable” and that there is no hope for reconciliation. In other words, the marriage is irretrievably broken and divorce is in both parties' best interests.
  • Fault-Based Divorce – The party filing for divorce cites a specific reason for doing so, such as cruel treatment, adultery, or abandonment by the other party.

The divorce fault categories in Texas are very general but may encompass many types of fault-based behavior. Domestic violence, for example, may be pled as cruel treatment.

Our Approach to Fault-Based Divorce

Our approach to fault-based divorce (as opposed to no-fault divorce) is highly individual and will depend on your particular goals in the case, and the strategy that we pursue on your behalf. Because Texas permits the parties to change their pleadings over the course of the case, it may even make sense to file a case as no-fault and take a wait-and-see approach to fault.

It is important to realize that alleging fault will often create a more hostile, high-conflict divorce, however, it is also true that a no-fault divorce is not the same as an agreed or uncontested divorce—in a no-fault divorce, custody and property division are often still hotly contested.

Divorce petitioners often assume that no-fault divorces are fast and easy. However, while the disclosures may be a by-passed, specific legal requirements must be met for a no-fault divorce to be finalized, just like any other divorce.

In Texas, the no-fault divorce process involves:

  • Fulfilling Texas' residency requirements for divorce;
  • Completing the correct divorce documents. This will involve a divorce decree and other situational documentation. Factors include whether the divorce is contested, you have children, and a custody agreement is already in place.
  • Taking completed forms to the divorce court and County Clerk.
  • Paying necessary Texas court fees.
  • Fulfilling the 60-day waiting period after filing for divorce. A no-fault divorce requires a 60-day waiting period before the court will finalize your divorce. The 60 days begins when your original divorce petition is filed in court.
  • Completing all paperwork. You may arrange to be divorced on day 61, but only if you have all of your paperwork in order, including a final decree of divorce addressing all necessary issues, and other documents depending on whether you have children and whether you have property that must be divided or transferred.

At Diggs & Sadler, our Houston divorce attorneys are here to help you every step of the way in your divorce proceedings.

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Tax Issues to Be Aware of During a Divorce

An attorney can make sure you understand how the following variables can impact your taxes and finances after divorce. At Diggs & Sadler, our Houston estate planning lawyers work with financial experts to help our clients receive the information they need. While we are not tax specialists, you should know that tax issues may impact the many aspects of your divorce including the following:

  • The tax impact of property division: in Texas, the courts may take the tax impact of the various property division options into account in reaching the final division of the marital property. Certain property will be taxed when liquidated, such as stocks with capital gains or real estate that has appreciated. Money from most retirement accounts will be taxed at the time of withdrawal, but not taxed if the funds are in a Roth IRA. The court may take these tax variables into account
  • Child support: Child support payments are not considered taxable income for the recipient and are not deductible for the paying party.
  • Alimony or spousal maintenance: Once deductible, the law had changed and alimony is no longer deductible for the paying party.
  • Dependent tax deduction: Typically, the spouse who has primary custody of the children will receive the tax deduction for dependents unless the parties agree otherwise.
  • Division of retirement plans: Retirement plans may be divided without being taxed, usually by a document called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO.
  • Withdrawing money from a retirement plan awarded in divorce: Once all or part of a retirement plan is awarded and transferred to you upon divorce, you have a brief window to withdraw funds one time before retirement without paying the 10% early withdrawal penalty; but you will nevertheless need to pay taxes on the funds withdrawn.
  • Attorney fees: Generally, attorney fees related to the divorce are not tax-deductible. Potential exceptions may apply, allowing a deduction for certain types of advice.

At Diggs & Sadler, our Houston family lawyers can help you obtain a better outcome in your divorce. To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone (713) 766-5355.

How Long Will It Take to Finalize My Divorce?

Unfortunately, there's no one answer to this question. Sometimes, straightforward divorces with amicable spouses take just a few months. However, acrimonious divorces or parties with complicated financial entanglements can take much longer. The following are just some of the issues and disputes in divorce that may take significant time for your attorney to resolve:

  • Dividing assets: If you and your spouse share assets, called community property, and disagree on how to divide them, it can lengthen the divorce process.
  • Separate property disputes: If you or your spouse have disputed claims for separate property, that may take more time to resolve.
  • Child custody battles: Arriving at a custody agreement can be a bitter back-and-forth that takes time. Disagreements will delay your divorce, or even necessitate a hearing or trial.
  • Child support disputes: If you can't agree on fair child support payments the case may need to proceed to trial.
  • Alimony: Alimony, or as we call it in Texas, spousal maintenance, can be a source of disagreement between divorcing parties, and may delay the case.
  • Trial: If your case must go to trial to be resolved by the judge or jury, then your case will take longer because you will have to wait for a trial date from the court and take all the necessary steps to prepare.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Texas?

For divorce in Harris County, the filing fees alone add up to $320, which does not include additional fees for cases involving child custody. It also does not include attorney fees or court fees.

According to a study published by USA Today in 2020, the average cost of divorce in Texas is $15,600 without children and $23,500 with children, making it the fifth highest-expensive state when it comes to divorce.

Divorce & Common-Law Marriage

Many couples in Texas choose to engage in a common-law marriage instead of a traditional marriage. Typically, to dissolve a common-law marriage, couples must file for a divorce just as they would to end a traditional marriage.

For a couple to prove they have a common-law marriage, both parties must:

  1. Agree to be married,
  2. Cohabitate, and
  3. Hold themselves out to the public as though they are married.

Additionally, couples can choose to file common-law marriage paperwork to establish a common-law marriage.

Agreements that couples form to enter a common-law marriage can contain stipulations for the financial aspects of their relationship, such as what property should be considered community assets and liabilities.

Cohabitating couples may wish to prove or disprove the existence of a common-law marriage when ending their relationship. Our Houston family law attorneys can help you understand how the status of your union or common-law marriage could impact its dissolution.

Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First?

It doesn't necessarily matter who files first for divorce, but being the first to file can have its advantages – as well as its disadvantages.

If you are the first to file for divorce in Texas, then your spouse will have to respond to your petition within 20 days, or on or before 10:00 am on the first Monday following 20 days after service. Therefore, being the first to file could save you the stress of trying to find the right divorce lawyer and respond in time.

One disadvantage to filing first is that you "show your hand." You have to explain in writing why you want a divorce and what you desire from the dissolution, which gives the other party an opportunity to counter your demands. You may also pay slightly more, since you were the one who paid to file for divorce in the first place.

How Much Could Divorce Cost Me?

The cost of your divorce will depend, in part, on the legal counsel you choose to represent you in the divorce process. Bearing that in mind, the price you pay your divorce lawyer in Houston usually corresponds with three essential factors:

  1. Complexity, conflict and time: Complex issues, such as cases that involve significant or unusual assets or disputes over potentially complex matters such as separate property, jurisdictional disputes or child custody, may require more work, cause the case to take longer to resolve and result in a costlier divorce.
  2. The experience of the attorney: Our more experienced attorneys naturally cost more per hour, however, you get what you pay for: if the case is unusual or complex, the more experienced attorney who charges more by the hour may actually save you money in the appropriate case. If your case is more straightforward, an attorney with lower hourly rates may be the best attorney to take good care of your needs.
  3. Your approach: We will be there for you when you call on us. Your ability to manage your time with your attorney and to seek out ways to save money with simple steps like organizing documents and information and responding quickly to requests from us for information will save you money on fees.

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